We’ve seen a lot of flaws here on Red Light Greenlight. Bugs, crashes, poor design choices, and sloppy implementation are just a few of the most common. But this week we have something a little different. This week it’s not the game that’s flawed, but the player.
Put simply, the bills are piling up and I just do not have the skills to pay them. You’d think after twenty-five years of playing video games I’d be a competent gamer, but Stigmat, by Russian developer Akakiy Petrushkin (that’s a name, in case you were wondering), seems hell-bent on proving that I’m little more than some drooling moron with a controller.
Stigmat is an exercise in frustration, similar in style to Super Meat Boy and I Wanna be the Guy, a retro-looking 2D platformer with unforgiving levels requiring precise jumps and a steady hand/temper. The plot of the game is simple: the player controls a little yellow cyclops man who gets his eye stolen by the villainous Dr. Worm and must brave trials and tribulations in order to get it back.
But it’s never the plot that matters in games like these, it’s the levels, and Stigmat manages to deliver the goods. While it’s not nearly as ambitious in scope as most of its comrades in the “die-to-spikes-so-many-times-you-forget-what-happiness-means” genre – the game features only sixteen levels and only took me an hour and a half to beat – the levels, though scant in number, are well-designed and varied, and each one was completed with a sense of real accomplishment.
Stigmat manages to mix up the format a bit by including a neat little mechanic where, once you collect the key necessary to finish the level, an extra layer of difficulty is thrown at you for the rest. Whether it’s added projectiles, laser traps, or turning off all the lights, it usually adds a few extra deaths to your count and adds a bit of variation to the levels.
But in case you get sick of that unblinking yellow mug, Stigmat also allows you to get a little bit fashionable with unlockable content. Along your dangerous little cyclops’s journey, you’ll pick up green “coins” that serve as an in-game currency, buying your character new hats, allowing you to run around looking like the Dragonborn, Finn the Human, Isaac Clarke, Mario, or even… the Illuminati!
Technically, the game runs fine. Controller integration was largely seamless, which is a must for this genre — though I did run into one level where an essential game mechanic was only mapped to the space bar, which led to some awkward controller-keyboard hybrid grip that I definitely don’t recommend. Beyond that, I had no issues, which is more than I can say for controller compatibility in some AAA games. There were also occasional framerate dips for no good reason, but nothing game-breaking for me. It could definitely use a bit more optimization though.
With regards to the art direction, what you see is what you get. Lots of red, lasers, and spikes. The sprite work is fine, but nothing stands out as particularly well-designed or clever. The soundtrack is great, if limited, full of that electronic 8-bit style that’s popular in indie games at the moment, but since you spend so much time dead you really only hear the first 10 seconds or so of each song, which starts to grate after a little while.
Stigmat is unique among current RLGL club members in that it’s actually a very solid game. The controls are tight, the art and music are pleasing, and despite being more difficult than listening to your racist uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, it never feels unfair. Beyond some relatively minor technical issues, all of my complaints are small and ancillary, and the only thing I really wish it that it was a bit longer (though I doubt my heart could take it). Considering that everything but the music was made by one guy, I’m willing to forgive any hiccups that I ran into along the way.
The price is also perfectly reasonable, coming in at $5.49 CAD ($1.37 on sale), which is a price I was more than happy to pay for a functioning game that did what was advertised — looking at you Mars Colony. All in all, this is the first RLGL game that I’m wholly satisfied with. It came, it kicked my ass all over the place, and then it was done. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Eric Roy is a Senior Editor for AYBOnline, and really, really wishes he was the Guy. You can follow his inane stream-of-consciousness ramblings on Twitter, he’ll probably follow you back (he’s pathetic like that). His opinions are his own.